Ex-PMs Barak and Netanyahu in secret power-sharing talks as Kadima votes for next leader

Defense minister Ehud Barak of Labor and opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu of Likud are in advanced negotiations to rotate the premiership between them in order to cut the ground from under ruling Kadima which votes for a new chairman Wednesday, Sept. 17. The ultra-religious Shas is in on the plan.
This is reported by debkafile‘s political circles.
Foreign minister Tzipi Livni and transport minister Shaul Mofaz are front-runners for the post to succeed Ehud Olmert, who is committed to step down after the primary and face the corruption probes mounting up against him.
Barak’s Labor and Netanyahu’s Likud combined with Eli Yishai’s Shas hold more Knesset seats – 43, than Kadima’s 27.
They are in a position to prevent the winner of the Kadima primary automatically taking over from Olmert as head of the incumbent government coalition. If they finalize their pact, they plan to ask the president to accept their alternative bid to head the government.
Without Labor, neither Livni nor Mofaz has the numbers to form a viable coalition government.
debkafile‘s sources report that Netanyahu and Barak are close to accord on the general principles of their partnership but are still working on details.
They have agreed that –
1. Netanyahu will take over the present government as prime minister and serve up to an early general election at the end of 2009.
2. Should the vote take place on time in late 2010, Netanyahu will serve in 2009 and hand over to Barak the following year.
3. Their rotation agreement will apply to the post-election government as well – each of the party leaders serving a two-year term. This power-sharing arrangement worked in the mid-1980s, when Likud’s Yitzhak Shamir and Labor leader Shimon Peres took turns as head of government.
Our political sources stress that Labor leader Barak manipulated Olmert into retiring and his Kadima party into holding a primary for his successor by threatening to quit the coalition and bringing the government down.
Kadima accepted the deal, taking it for granted that that Olmert’s successor as party chairmanship would automatically accede to the premiership as well.
Livni went along with Barak’s scheme because she was sure that by ousting Olmert she would land both jobs and that Barak was on her side.
Mofaz’s guilty secret is his deal with Barak for the use of the pro-Labor Histadrut Trade Union Federation’s electoral resources, including help from the influential secretary general Ofer Eini, to support his bid for the party leadership.
In the meantime, Barak and Netanyahu have agreed to block the path to the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem to both Kadima leaders.
The Labor leader switched his support to Mofaz when he saw opinion polls showing that Livni as Kadima leader and prime minister would be hard to beat in a general election, whereas Mofaz would be less of a challenge.
Barak believes he can use his pact with Netanyahu to continue to push Kadima’s buttons and at the right moment, take the party over and form a left-of-center Labor-Kadima bloc to fight his current partner, head of the right-of-center Likud.
Only after the Kadima primary, will Barak find out if his complicated machinations work or go askew.
Kadima is a relatively new arrival on Israel’s political scene, an amalgam of loyalists of the former prime minister Ariel Sharon who followed him from different parties three years ago. They went along with his policy of a two-state solution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict separating the two peoples.
Olmert and Livni were part of Sharon’s coterie. With his disappearance, there is not much holding Kadima together. Just 74,000 voters are registered for its first primary Wednesday. Livni leads in the poll, challenged closely by Mofaz whereas the two other contenders, Avi Dichter and Meir Sheetrit, both cabinet members, trail far behind.
Their support will be critical if a run-off becomes necessary.

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